Wednesday, July 12, 2006

10 Tips For First Year

1. Breathe in, Breathe Out, Repeat. Sounds easy right? Yeah, not so much. 1L can be a little on the stressful side. If you are going straight from undergrad to the law school, it is highly likely that you have never experience a learning atmosphere like law school before. It'll be new, exciting, stressful...but nothing to go beserk about.

2. Laughter, in as many forms as possible, is key. I have seen people freak out. I've seen people lose their minds. I've gotten A's, I've gotten C's. People forget to have fun and laugh and realize that law school really shouldn't be as serious as the Paper Chase makes it out to be.

3. Don't overemphasize the small things. Seriously. A memo is a memo. It'll consume you for a little while. A grade is a grade. Law school is like a marathon, you don't finish it in the first 50 feet. Oh, and never judge your knowledge by the length of someone else's outline. Ever.

4. Grades are not everything, knowing the right people is everything. I'm going into my third year and I am in the process of having doors opened to me by coworkers (I am not a big firm, just a place with quality people who want to help me out). When your boss tells you that he is going to bust his ass to get you a great job, you know that the people you are with are the ones who care about you. Branch out. Make friends. Form relationships. These will be the biggest asset for you when you want to be gainfully employed

5. Making Law Review Does Not Mean that You are a) smarter than anyone, b) entitled to anything, or c) destined to get a Summer Associateship. Grading onto Law Review is something to be proud of, it shows that you are a great test taker (I am not one of these people) and you learned a lot along the way. But it doesn't mean that you are going to be God's gift to the legal profession. You have to retain your humility and appreciate all of your successes along the way.

6. Don't be a Gunner. Or a Douchebag. If you always volunteer an answer on every single question, chances are you are the gunner. No one wants to be the gunner. No one likes the gunner. The gunner does not help the law school educational process. The gunner is there to bet on or play Gunner Bingo. If you know the answer and you always know the answer, good for you. It shows that you are learning something; but keep that to yourself and show everyone how much you know by acing the finals.

7. Do not force other peoples study habits onto yourself. This is huge. When I was on the verge of starting 1L, a lot of people told me about finding a study group or engaging in other various study habits (briefing cases is totally overrated, I stopped after the first day). Don't rush into this. Joining a study group first semester 1L caused me to do worse on finals and start a blog, both constructive uses of my time. Take a few weeks to get used to the system and see what works best for YOU. I defined my study habits a year too late and my GPA suffered because of that. Now that I said don't follow anyone else's studying habits, let me suggest a study habit...

8. Study Throughout the Semester in a Way That Prepares You For Finals. For me, this is the only study habit that I can suggest. As I alluded to above, people sweat the small shit and lose their minds. I found that my studying throughout the semester had me ready for finals and that I did not have to pull allnighters just to be competent in Torts or Contracts. I hope that this makes sense...

9. Stay close to your friends that are not in law school. Your other friends will remind you that there is more to life then case briefing or legal writing or gunner bingo. They won't likely understand what you are going through, but they still can help you through it. A support system like this will ease your transition from normal human being to oppressed law student.

10. Enjoy yourself. I have had more fun learning in law school then I had ever before in any educational setting that I have ever encountered. The law is a complex and intriguing field of study, but it is so important and vital to everyday life. I think that is cool, but, I am a big nerd. If nothing else, this is the last time you get to still be in school before real life hits. You don't have to think about 2000 billable hours or 7 day work weeks...yet. Enjoy it while you can!


John Roberts said...

I would say that you should brief cases, at least until the briefs become easy to write.

While the actual briefs aren't that useful, by briefing the cases, you will learn how to pull useful information out of an opinion which is a challenge when you are first starting out, but also a necessary skill.

dicta said...

i began my first year briefing cases, but quickly found it time consuming and cumbersome. however, i didn't want to totally abandon the practice, so i began book briefing using different colored highlighters. this worked really well for me until i got the hang of it, and now i've worked myself down to 1 highlighter.

the littlest tortfeasor said...

Awesome tips. I can't wait to play Gunner Bingo!

LawStudentGuyPerson said...

Excellent overall advice. I especially liked the last line of #3 - "Oh, and never judge your knowledge by the length of someone else's outline. Ever." At the end of your first semeseter you'll be asked (and maybe asking) "How long is your outline????" This is a pointless question. Don't be intimidated by it, especially when they tell you how long theirs is.

littlest tortfeasor, don't be the gunner. I cannot stress to you enough how nobody likes the gunner. I will say this, though: don't be afraid to raise your hand when the prof asks a question and nobody answers - especially when the crickets start chirping. It can get pretty uncomfortable.

the littlest tortfeasor said...

Oh, don't worry. I don't want to be the gunner! I'll probably just be that asshole who makes fun of them.

Macknzie said...

I admit it: I do tend to judge knowledge by the size of someone's outline. The shorter the outline, the better. I try to keep mine around 10 pages, max, and I recommend that for everyone else, too.

Also, I think the law review advice goes to grades in general. It is definitely not a measure of how good a lawyer one will become. Some schools allow a write-on to law review--which actually does require useful skills--but grades are particularly arbitrary. Don't take them to heart, no matter how good or bad they are.

LawMommy said...

As I posted over at Little Tortie's Place:
There is ofcourse, the gunner drinking game. Has to be done surriptitiously with booze-laden thermoses -- if the gunner answers someone else's question, do a shot. If the gunner asks a question in the last five minutes of class... drink the whole damn thing.

C.W.Richeson said...

While I now book brief, I really recommend briefing early on. At the very least it will help relieve the stress of being called on until you realize that neither your professor nor your classmates care what you say as long as you don't waste time.

Also, gunners are folk that waste time and raise their hands to look smart. Folk who actually ask interesting or helpful questions regularly should be praised, not mocked. Don't be afraid to raise your hand.